Chains of Action

Much mystery has been made of the art of directing. But I think it`s just work.

I will show you here how to organize an ensemble scene (8 actors) with quite a lot of movement into a task-driven structure. We take a scene from “Blood Wedding” by Federico Garcia Lorca.

A short summary

It`s a wedding party, but the bride is in love with another man from the village who is married and has a child and a pregnant wife. The mother of the groom, who lost her husband and her first son in a clan fight is quite overprotective and was quite suspicious if the bride was a good woman for her son. But now it seems that everything is good, she is happy and preparing to head home, giving her son some final delicate instructions for the wedding night. Her son, the groom, quite mama`s boy and not very mature in his behaviour, listens carefully and the audience could have some fun imagining this lanky boy obediently following mama`s instructions for the night.  What the mother doesn`t know is that the bride and the groom had a dispute a few minutes ago because he had wanted to dance with her and she didn`t want to be touched by him. What they bothand the audience  don`t know is, that the bride and her lover, Leonardo, who was also at the wedding, have just fled on Leonardo`s horse.

The scene that now unfolds starts with a relatively unaroused situation (for the mother it is a happiest moment and for the son there is hope that the bride will be different at night, especially as he know has received the instructions how to treat a wife from his mother). The party is going on, narrated by two of the guests who now and then enter the stage to animate the others enthusiastically to join the dancing and by some background music. The sister of the bride arrives because she is looking for the bride. Only after she and also the groom can`t find her, the situation tilts into irritation. The maid arrives, she also can`t find the bride. Finally, Leonardo`s wife enters the stage, obviously under shock and tells everyone that her husband and the bride have fled. The party stops, the music stops. The son, betrayed in his manliness and embarrassed in front of all the party guests is forced to action. The mother even enforces him that he has to follow them, then draws him back in an impulse of fear, but, as she feels all the eyes of the little community they live, finally sends him to chase them down. The sister of the bride, also embarrassed by the dishonor of her sister, tries to belittle what has happened by uttering that the bride probably killed herself (which would be better in terms of honor), but the mother declares a war between the two parties and leaves with two followers.

Meta-Tasks

  1. Establish wedding party
  2. Narrate a gradual escalation of the situation
  3. Tell 8 individual lines of life, no “dead moments”
  4. Make Turning points concise
  5. Arrange everything on stage in a way that the eyes, despite having to watch eight agents, will be able to follow the lines and sublines of the narrative

The Text

MOTHER: Try to be tender with your wife, and if you find her foolish or stubborn, caress her in such a way that you hurt her a little in the process. . . a firm embrace. . . a bite. . and kiss her gently afterwards. She should not feel hurt, but she should know that you are the man, the master, that you command. I learned that from your father. And since you no longer have him, I must teach you these strengths.

GROOM: I will always do what you say.

SISTER enters: Where is my sister?

GROOM: Inside. Sister is going inside.

GIRL: Let the bride and groom come! We want to dance the ribbon dance!

NEIGHBOR to GROOM: And you will lead it.

SISTER comes out: She’s not there.

GROOM: She’s not?

SISTER: She’ll be up on the terrace.

GROOM: I want to look. Off.

You can hear festive guitars.

GIRL They’re starting already! They’re starting already! Off.

GROOM comes: She’s not here!

MOTHER: She’s not?

SISTER: Where can she be?

MAID comes: Where is our child?

MOTHER: We don’t know. Groom arrives.

SISTER: Isn’t she at the dance?

MAID: No. She’s not at the dance. Groom off.

SISTER: There’s a lot of people. Go check.

MAID: I already looked.

SISTER: Where is she?

GROOM comes back: Nothing, nowhere. Off.

MOTHER to SISTER: What do you mean? Where is your sister?

LEONARDO`S WIFE comes: They have fled! Escaped! She and Leonardo. On horseback. Embraced- and vanished like an apparition!

SISTER: No!! My sister – no!

MOTHER: Your sister – yes! Offspring of a bad mother! But she is already my son’s wife!

GROOM is coming: After them! Who has a horse?

MOTHER: Who has a horse, now, now a horse? I give him everything – my eyes… my tongue…!to son: Forward! After them! Groom rushes out. No. Don’t go. This clan murders quickly- and well…; but, run, I’ll stay behind you!

SISTER: It can’t be. Maybe she threw herself into the cistern.

MOTHER: Only the respectable, the chaste throw themselves into the water. Not her! But she is already married to my son. There are two parties here! My family and yours. Help my son. Get out! In all ways. Again the hour of blood has come. Two parties! You with your own – I with mine!

Markers in the Text

Scene has to start low temperature, smooth rhythms, soft muscles, physical leaning into each other by mother and son. Although he is much taller than her, here he has to be smaller (way of leaning). Mother collected, she must seem ready to go, orderly. When she starts the sex education she will provide some physical distance.

0

MOTHER: Try to be tender with your wife, and if you find her foolish or stubborn, caress her in such a way that you hurt her a little in the process. . . a firm embrace. . . a bite. . and kiss her gently afterwards. She should not feel hurt, but she should know that you are the man, the master, that you command. I learned that from your father. And since you no longer have him, I must teach you these strengths.

GROOM: I will always do what you say. There is of course a joke here, he will be the master as his mother told him.

1

SISTER enters: Where is my sister? The most easy way to look for somebody. There is no problem yet.

GROOM: Inside. Sister is going inside.

GIRL: Let the bride and groom come! We want to dance the ribbon dance! Action, atmosphere. Choreography.

NEIGHBOR to GROOM: And you will lead it. She should grasp him for dancing.

SISTER comes out: She’s not there.

2

GROOM: She’s not? Dancing should not stop, this would be a much to big sign of a problem. 

SISTER: She’ll be up on the terrace.

GROOM: I want to look. Off. Can he use the momentum of the dance and translate it into the movement towards the door?

You can hear festive guitars.

GIRL They’re starting already! They’re starting already! Off. Both, Girl and Neighbour. Party!

GROOM comes: She’s not here! Irritated, but no dark thoughts yet.

3

MOTHER: She’s not? Mother with her bad experiences must be the first one who suspects something bad has happened. There could be some silence here. Nobody knowing what to do.

4

SISTER: Where can she be? Let that be rhetoric, like making a joke, trying to save the situation when you think the bride is probably secretly smoking a cigarette in her wardrobe.

Let the sister of Leonardo`s wife enter here with a plate and cake. 

5

MAID comes: Where is our child? There must be some escalation in the way the maid arrives. Rhythms. Also she turns the sister away from the mother, as if it should not be heard what they talk. 

MOTHER: We don’t know. Groom arrives. Mother responding to something she shouldn`t have heard and listening cautiously.

SISTER: Isn’t she at the dance? Quick silent exchange of information. The emotion is in the tempo and in the conflict of the two. The sister telling the maid to do what she already did. This is an accelerator by overlapping events.

MAID: No. She’s not at the dance. Groom off.

SISTER: There’s a lot of people. Go check.

MAID: I already looked.

6

SISTER: Where is she? Great embarrassment for the sister of the bride. Even if the bride only fell asleep somewhere, this is not what a bride should do at her wedding. 

7

GROOM comes back: Nothing, nowhere. Off. The groom is looking for the bride all of the time, entering, exiting. Grades of arousal must be structured. He always comes back to his mother, she is his anchor. 

8

MOTHER to SISTER: What do you mean? Where is your sister? Attack. We have to remember here that the marriage was arranged like some horse trade. So the mother is approaching the sister of the bride in a way you approach somebody who has broken a contract. No suffering here. 

9

LEONARDO`S WIFE comes: They have fled! Escaped! She and Leonardo. On horseback. Embraced- and vanished like an apparition! Entering slowly and early, probably when the mother is still speaking. Leave right side of stage empty for her. She needs focus from the others. Music stops. Silence after all this action.

Sister of Leonardo`s wife drops plate. Girl enters with a last party animation, notices the athmosphere and mutes. Silence.

10

SISTER: No!! My sister – no! Action! Sister of bride almost runs over to Leonardo`s wife, as if she wanted to shake her.

Sister of Leonardo`s wife at the same time runs to her sister, to comfort and protect her.

MOTHER: Your sister – yes! Offspring of a bad mother! But she is already my son’s wife! Also at the same time the mother runs after the sister of the bride, grasps her by the arm and turns her around. This is a violent act, you normally don`t do that. The scene is escalated now. Sister of the bride: Physically ready to be surprised. Last sentence is addressed to all the guests. They are the witnesses that the contract has already been made. 

GROOM is coming: After them! Who has a horse? As soon as he enters, all gazes go towards him . He will not go to action by himself but by the (assumed) expectation in the gaze of all the people. 

MOTHER: Who has a horse, now, now a horse? I give him everything – my eyes… my tongue…!to son: Forward! After them! Groom rushes out. No. Don’t go. This clan murders quickly- and well…; but, run, I’ll stay behind you! Mother takes son by the hand and tears him into the middle of the stage. She tries to provide him with some equipment (horse). As nobody has a horse, she sends him without a horse, he starts to leave, she runs after him, stops him. They stand again. She looks around and sees how everybody is looking and her and her son, disgraced people. Then she sends him. Mother now standing at the right front corner of the stage. 

SISTER: It can’t be. Maybe she threw herself into the cistern. Moving over to mother. Trying to talk.

MOTHER: Only the respectable, the chaste throw themselves into the water. Not her! But she is already married to my son. There are two parties here! My family and yours. Help my son. Get out! In all ways. Again the hour of blood has come. Two parties! You with your own – I with mine! Mother passes by her and reenters centre stage. She addresses everyone, call to weapons. Like a war leader she exits, followed by the neighbour and the girl. 

Communication, Creative Atmosphere and the perfectly imperfect director

I have no moral problem with giving people orders. I like Edvard Gordon Craig`s metaphor of the ship crew. Somebody has to be the captain. And I think that an order received by somebody else is just a clear advice that you will have to give to yourself (as the king is always being played by the others). But there is a way of giving orders that turns the actor into a rigid puppet, which doesn`t look like acting quality. So, even if the tasks are orders, one has to communicate them in a way that the actor can not only understand them, but optimally feels invited and stimulated to fulfill them. This also means that you have to give a degree of freedom if they try something out. It will be important that you create an atmosphere where it is allowed to do something wrong. Only then will they fully embrace the risk to try something out. A good means for such an atmosphere is when you yourself make mistakes now and then. Say something wrong, have a bad idea, do bad communication, show bad acting. This means is so practical because it will happen anyway. It´s important that the director is an as imperfect human as everyone. Humour would be relevant here. Then you can become quite radical with the correction of mistakes. I often do the “mimicking reductio ad absurdum method”. That means: I show what the actors do, but I exagerrate it in a way that makes it funny. They can see what they do then, but they also know that they don`t do it that badly. And they have seen me shamelessly behaving like an idiot which seems to provide a lot of freedom. This will save you a lot of time and energy wasted on “Don`t want to hurt your feelings and please don`t take it personally but it might be possible that you haven`t done that so good”-stuff. The other means that will allow you giving orders and at the same time maintaining a highly creative atmosphere is the enthusiasm of the director.

Building a Scene by Tasks/Instructions/Orders

We will now build the scene along tasks. The tasks are in a verbal form as this is the main way how they are communicated with the actors. Sometimes it is easier to show something, I will mention that. of course working after something that has been shown is kind of working from the image, but if you show what you do in terms of function, the actors will understand the function. You cannot copy bicycling.